It isn’t only Breivik who’s on trial in Oslo
The killer seems to have acted alone. So why the clamour to blame his actions on everything from divorce to football hooliganism to Sweden?
As day three of the trial against Anders Behring Breivik drew to a close, it had become clear that the Norwegian court is dealing with a man of much conviction and few friends. The mass murderer who killed 77 people in three hours showed no remorse and, despite claiming affinity with everyone from David Cameron and the National Socialist Underground to a secret international organisation called the Knights Templar, there is no proof that Breivik received assistance or encouragement from anyone.
Yet blame is being wildly apportioned, with everyone from Breivik’s divorced parents to right-wing Scandinavian politicians and Zionists being called to step up and offer a mea culpa. It seems it is not just Breivik but society itself that is on trial in Oslo and some are taking this as an opportunity to argue for clamping down on their particular political foes.
In The Times (London), a professor of developmental psychology speculated that Breivik’s parents’ divorce and his lack of contact with his father could have played a role in him turning into a (to put it in layman’s terms) deranged adult. In Norway, there have been claims that the widespread disgust for Breivik’s actions is not matched by disgust for his xenophobic motives. This is evidenced, apparently, by racist comments in online forums and by the Norwegian government rejecting asylum seekers from Ethiopia.
In neighbouring Sweden, the right-wing Sweden Democrat party has been lambasted for inspiring the kind of Islamophobia espoused by Breivik. One commentator even wrote that Breivik’s hour-long statement to the court might as well have been read out at the Sweden Democrats’ party congress.
In the UK, anti-racists have said that Breivik may have acted alone but he was nevertheless inspired by ‘anti-jihadists’, who must therefore be held to account. As per the group Hope Not Hate‘s definition, these anti-jihadists include neo-conservatives, Christian evangelicals, football hooligans, Zionists and ex-leftists.
Bear in mind that Breivik bombed government buildings in Oslo and then went on a shooting spree at a Labour Party youth camp in order to ‘save Norway and Western Europe from cultural Marxism and a Muslim takeover’. As soon as his handcuffs came off in court, Breivik shot his arm up in a fisted salute. He described his actions as ‘the most sophisticated and spectacular political attack committed in Europe since the Second World War’ and said ‘I would do it again’. The court’s description of the injuries of each of his 77 victims did not inspire any remorsefulness in Breivik, but clips from his own propaganda video brought him to tears.
This is not a mainstream outlook. It’s not how your run-of-the-mill child of divorcees behaves. It’s not the kind of behaviour promoted by Scandinavian anti-immigrant politicians.
Breivik has claimed multiple sources of inspiration – among them al-Qaeda, George Orwell and John Stuart Mill – but that’s not their fault. Unless evidence of an actual accomplice is presented, then Breivik and Breivik alone should be held accountable for his heinous crime. As it stands, even his own claims of affiliations have broken down in court. In his rambling manifesto he referred to the Knights Templar as a secret, international anti-Muslim militia led by ‘brilliant political and military tacticians’. In court, he admitted they were more like ‘four sweaty guys in a basement’. He also claimed to have met a Serb ‘war hero’ living in exile during a trip to Liberia in 2002, but he refused to identify him.
It seems unfathomable that any individual at all would harbour such vicious thoughts as Breivik does and then act on them. But the drive to project every perceived social ill on to his case – from ‘broken families’ and racism to scepticism towards multiculturalism and stringent asylum policies – will only muddle our understanding of this thankfully unique individual. Worse, it risks turning what should be a chance for the victims and their families to see justice done into a moment of political opportunism.
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